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Musician & Dennis Quaid Superfan Taylor Janzen Interviews the Actor About His First-Ever Album

Music Features Dennis Quaid
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You probably know Dennis Quaid, the actor. Depending on who you are, you’ll remember him from The Parent Trap (Nick Parker), The Rookie (Jimmy Morris), dozens of other titles and/or his stint as Ellen DeGeneres’ outrageous prank partner in the early 2010s. What you may not know about Quaid is his other passion: music. The actor and musician has been playing in his band Dennis Quaid & the Sharks, made up of Tom Mancillas, Ken Stange, Tom Walsh and the Kingbees’ Jamie James, for about 20 years now, and last November, they finally released their first album: Out of the Box. A special Record Store Day edition of the album is out now on vinyl. You also may or may not know Taylor Janzen, a singer/songwriter from Winnipeg, Canada, who made a splash at this year’s SXSW and caught our attention thanks to her emotionally vivid songs and fierce love for all things Gilmore Girls, her cat and—you guessed it—Dennis Quaid. We asked Janzen, whose forthcoming EP Shouting Matches is out May 3, to interview Quaid about his new album, influences and favorite artists (some of whom may surprise you). Their conversation has been edited for length.

Taylor Janzen: Congrats on your new record!
Dennis Quaid: Thank you.

Janzen: What was the recording process like for that?
Quaid: The record came out November 30, the CD, and it’s been available since then on Spotify and iTunes, but this is the week that the vinyl comes out and that really means a lot to me. Sort of like the last stop of the process. I grew up with vinyl, and it’s a big part of the market now actually. And I really appreciate that. We did this record—it was started like two years ago. We’ve been together as a band, the Sharks, for about almost 20 years now, but it’s a couple of years ago we had recorded some music to sell at gigs. But I wanted to do a real record and we’re lucky enough T Bone Burnett is a good friend of mine, has been for 40 years. He loaned us his engineer and set us up over at Village Recording Studios in Santa Monica, California, and we put down 25 tracks and chose 13 for the CD, and I think there’s 11 on the vinyl. It has a real live feel to it.

Janzen: Are you touring again soon?
Quaid: Yeah, we’re doing about 30 dates this calendar year. And next year maybe somewhere between 75 and 100 hopefully. [I want music] at the centerpiece of my career, whereas before maybe I was doing films that had to take first place. There’s a point now where music has taken first place and I’m really glad. But I was a musician—that was the first thing I was really before I was an actor.

Janzen: What’s your favorite part about playing shows?
Quaid: The audience. The immediacy of feeling people out there. You know, the fourth wall is down. It’s kind of like the theater in a way, doing a show, because you aren’t doing a theatrical performance, but it’s presentational. I like to look at people’s faces, and it’s amazing when you’re on stage, people will look right at you. You know, in life, we all look away from each other, but they will. People are like blown wide open, and they’re there to have a good time and that’s what we try to give them. They spent their hard-earned money to come there, and we want to give them a good time.

Janzen: Do you guys have any pre-show rituals or anything?
Quaid: Jamie James and I have the very same vocal warmup for every show for the last 20 years. I guess it becomes a little superstitious after awhile, right? But we do the sound check and the meal afterwards and you just kind of get used to it.

Janzen: Yeah for sure. Now on the record that you guys have released, you have like a bunch of covers on there, right? And also songs you wrote yourself?
Quaid: I think there’s four covers. There’s two Doors songs. Then there’s also [Larry Williams’] “Slow Down.” When we started like 20 years ago, we did about 75% covers and 25% originals. Over the years, that is now 75% originals and 25% covers.

Janzen: So now you’re playing more originals, which is awesome. What’s your writing process like? Do you write alone or do you write with the Sharks?
Quaid: I write alone. Yeah, that’s back to when I was like 14-years-old. I’ve written with people, and I go to Nashville about four days a month and write with several different people there. You know, it’s a great way to keep your chops up as a writer and to learn a lot of things still. I try to keep learning. Even in acting, I try to do that. Basically, I like to write alone. I feel the more personal a song is, the more universal it will be to the listener.

Janzen: Yeah, for sure. Where do you draw inspiration from as a writer?
Quaid: Everything. Life and, you know, other people I admired were songwriters. I love Johnny Cash because [of] his storytelling—really amazing—and I love to write stories. I love Van Morrison. I’ve gone back to “Brown Eyed Girl.” And he wrote “Gloria” when he was 16. He was 16-years-old and he had a number one record out there.

Janzen: Yeah that’s crazy. So the covers that you do, how do you choose which ones that you include in your shows and your record?
Quaid: It’s basically the music that we grew up loving, so we already have an emotional connection to it. I have a 27-year-old son, and his generation is really into the music of my youth, back in the ’70s. And so the audience is out there for them and we have kind of a trans-generational audience. But that’s how we choose it because we just love playing them.

Janzen: What was the first concert you attended? Like ever, the first show you ever went to?
Quaid: My first concert was B.B. King at the Continental Club in Houston, Texas, [in] like 1966.

Janzen: So what was that experience like?
Quaid: It was awesome. I think I was the only white kid in there, and certainly under age, but it was very, very powerful and really made a huge impression on me, the power of music.

Janzen: So what was like your first experience where you knew that you wanted to play music?
Quaid: I grew up in Houston, so Texas music really figured in. Houston is almost like west Louisiana, in a way. You get a lot of influence from over there. The first person I can remember hearing and listening to was Hank Williams because that’s what was being played around my house by my parents. But yeah, it was Hank Williams. There was Elvis, of course, and Eddy Arnold, Kitty Wells, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles. I look back and that music of my childhood is really still reflected in the way I write and in the music that I love.

Janzen: So I’m gonna let you go now so that you can continue your day but before I leave….
Quaid: Where are you now—are you living in Winnipeg?

Janzen: Yep I’m in Winnipeg. I’m also an artist and I play shows and, yeah, I’m doing some Canada stuff.
Quaid: What did you grow up listening to?

Janzen: Let’s see, I loved Paramore. I love Joni Mitchell, two very different artists.
Quaid: The Blue album, that was like an entire summer of listening to that record.

Janzen: Yeah, she’s incredible. I really like Talking Heads.
Quaid: Yeah, me too.

Janzen: Yeah, and there was a lot of different stuff, but now I really love like Brandi Carlile and a lot of folk rock.
Quaid: What’s the writing process like for you?

Janzen: My songs are very sad. So I do a lot of like internal—it’s very by myself. I don’t really co-write. But it’s very cathartic to sit by myself.
Quaid: Yeah it’s therapeutic, like a journal almost.

Janzen: Yeah, for sure. Well thank you so much for talking with me, Dennis. Before we leave, what artists are you listening to you right now?
Quaid: Well I’m listening to Lil Wayne. And still listening to a lot of Waylon Jennings. But Lil Wayne, I think he’s a genius. I think he’s the Bob Dylan of today, to tell you the truth. He’s a poet really, and it just spews out of him. It’s amazing. And I’m still listening to Waylon Jennings, Jamie Johnson. You know, I listen to a lot of different types of music, even a lot of reggaeton. It’s really interesting these days, reggaeton music.

Janzen: Sounds like you listen to a lot of different types of stuff.
Quaid: Yeah, that’s why I call our music the junk yard of American music. Growing up in Houston, there was a lot of influences, I guess.

Janzen: Sure. I was just in Austin for South By Southwest and it was a gorgeous city.
Quaid Is that your first time there?

Janzen: Yeah, it was very busy.
Quaid: Did you play?
Janzen: Yeah I played.
Quaid: That was a great venue. I remember going to South by Southwest when it was tiny. Now, I mean it’s grown leaps and bounds.

Janzen: Yeah there were so many people and it was crazy busy, but it was so fun.
Quaid: Oh well I’ll come see you sometime. If I see your name on a marquis or hear about you, I’m coming to see you.

Janzen: Thank you!
Quaid: Can’t have an intimate conversation about songwriting and not come and see you! Just like everybody in music or in bands, all your friends who are in them, you never get to see them because you’re always on the road to separate places.

Janzen: That’s true. I hope to catch one of your shows one day.
Quaid: Love to. Come up and say hello. We’ll do a Joni Mitchell song.
Janzen: Oh, that would be excellent.

Dennis Quaid & the Sharks’ Out of the Box is out now digitally and on vinyl in select record stores. Take a look back at some of Quaid’s best roles right here. While you’re at it, listen to Taylor Janzen’s latest single right here.

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